Be a Heart-Healthy Family


Photo by Jasmine Carter on

Heart Awareness is observed throughout February. Why is this important to us here at The Nurture Notebook? Well, for several reasons, and they all revolve around our love for both parents and their children.

  • A healthy heart allows a parent to have more energy and enables them to feel better able to care for their children.
  • Being educated on the signs and symptoms of heart conditions for both adults and children boosts a parent’s confidence.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in America (
  • Pregnancy actually provides insight into a mom’s cardiovascular health.


Photography from Jaclyn Du Chateau Photography

Let’s start in pregnancy. Our weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure are all influenced during pregnancy. According to Dr. Sadiya S. Khan, an assistant professor of medicine and preventative medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago,,

Pregnancy is “nature’s stress test. And it is such an important time period for both mom and child.

So, the way our body is able to endure these changes during pregnancy (i.e. preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm infants) may provide a glimpse into our future heart health. Advocate for yourself, and remember, it is important for your entire healthcare team to understand how your body handled each of your pregnancies so they have a better insight into your overall health, what to monitor, and what preventative care may benefit you. For more information on statistics specific to pregnancy, please read the very insightful article in the link above.

With heart disease being the leading cause of death of women in America, being aware of your own health, potential risk-factors, and preventative care can save your life. The following link has additional information on how OB-GYNs and cardiologists are teaming together to support moms:


As a parent, the truth is we often put ourselves last. Remember that our family needs us to be healthy; they need us to be there for them.

When to Contact Your Healthcare Team
If you experience any of the following symptoms: Chest discomfort
Discomfort in places such as your neck, shoulder, arms, back, stomach, jaw
Feeling light-headed/dizzy
Shortness of breath


We are strong believers that education builds confidence and should provide a state of calm, not stress. Use reliable resources when educating yourself, utilize the gained knowledge to be an advocate for yourself and your child, to understand when to seek help. For the purposes of this blog we are simply noting some signs all parents should be aware of. Not to specifically look for, simply to be aware of, so if you see any child exhibiting these signs you are able to monitor them and discuss with the appropriate professionals.

When to Contact Your Child’s Healthcare Team
When you child is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Poor feeding and/or weight gain
Difficulties breathing (bluish tone around lips, irregular breathing pattern)
Excessive sweating
When able to express how they feel they may report:
Low blood pressure (they may report/perceive this as dizziness when standing up, cause symptoms of a headache)
Fluttering in chest, Heart rate/rhythm beating irregularly (i.e. may be fast, slow, skipping beats and your child may report feelings of a rapid or irregular heartbeat, it may also be felt on the radial artery on the wrist)
Syncope (fainting)
Chest discomfort
Upset stomach

If you are concerned, talk to your baby’s pediatrician about an evaluation with a pediatric cardiologist.

So How Do We Care for this Vital Organ?

  1. Eat Healthy. Eating a Mediterranean Diet has consistently over the years been discussed to have multiple health benefits. The staples in this eating lifestyle are fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. We find we are most successful with eating healthy when we prepare healthy meals (or partial meal prep) and snacks ahead of time.
Photo by August de Richelieu on

A new favorite heart healthy snack of Nurture Notetaker, Kim Bandi, OTR/L are roasted chickpeas.

Roasted Parmesan Truffle Chickpeas
(2) 25 oz cans of Chickpeas
4 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 to 4 teaspoons of Salt (depending on your dietary restrictions and taste preference: I prefer 2)
2-4 tablespoons of Truffle Oil (depending on your preference: I prefer 2)
Grated Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated from block or pre-grated in a container) to taste
Kelp granules to taste
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Preset timer for 20 minutes.
Drain chickpeas.
Soak chickpeas in water to remove their thin shells more easily.
Lay them out to dry on paper towels.
Once dry, toss chickpeas in olive oil and salt.
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. (Every oven varies, so you may need to play with the time and temperature depending on your preference. If you prefer crunchier chickpeas increase the time or try 425 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes).
Let chickpeas cool.
Toss chickpeas in truffle oil, parmesan (to taste), and kelp granules (to taste).
Store in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.
Eat as a quick snack or on salad.

Teaching your baby heart-healthy eating actually starts in pregnancy where they are first introduced to a variety of tastes because the amniotic fluid they swallow is flavored by what you eat. Furthermore, if you decide to breastfeed, the flavor of your breast milk is also directly impacted by the drinks, spices, and foods that you eat. Eating a variety of healthy foods during pregnancy and lactation may benefit your baby’s future eating habits.

After your baby has been cleared to eat baby solids and has established comfort with eating baby solid foods, adding a variety of healthy choices to their daily diet will help them continue down a heart-healthy path. One line that Nurture Notetaker, Kim Bandi, enjoyed using for her daughter because of the variety of foods they offered was the Sprout Organic Baby Foods line.

2. Physical Activity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “Exercise can be viewed as a preventative medical treatment, ‘like a pill’ that should be taken on an almost daily basis.”

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on
AHA Recommendations (base your routine on your personal health and doctor recommendations)
150 minutes/week moderate-intensity cardio activityOR 75 minutes/week vigorous-intensity cardio activityOR a combination of both spread throughout the week
Moderate-intensity muscle-strengthening (a minimum of 2 days per week)OR High-intensity muscle-strengthening (a minimum of 2 days per week)Examples: yoga, resistance or weight training
Note: Increase intensity and duration slowly over time. Being active 5 hours per week, as well as decreasing overall sedentary time, does provide increased benefits overall.

Teaching your children age-appropriate exercises will help support them in establishing a lifelong habit of exercise.

For more information this is an excellent article from the AHA:

3. Stress Management. Although a dose of healthy stress can be beneficial, it is not good for your mind and body to endure prolonged stress. It is important for you to learn about and implement healthy strategies to cope with stress.

The AHA introduced a Low Zone Stress Continuum from 1 (The Low-Stress Zone): “I am creatively and cheerfully engaged in life.” through 10 (The High-Stress Zone): “I have chart topping negative emotions.” Furthermore, they discuss learning to live in the low-stress zone.

For children, starting to discuss their emotions and incorporating emotional regulation strategies at a young age will be helpful in teaching them lifelong strategies to manage stress. Unfortunately, it seems that children are surrounded by a lot more stressors at a much younger age now.

If you find that your baby/toddler/children/teens is struggling with stress management and emotional regulation, speak with your healthcare team for support. They can guide you to a professional in your area who may be able to help dependent on your child’s age. For example, for your baby or toddler an occupational therapist may be consulted. For a school-aged child a guidance counselor may be recommended and for a teenager a consultation with a licensed counselor may be recommended. There are books, programs, and different types of professionals available to provide you with guidance.

Quick Tips to Decrease Stress
Positive Inner DialogueHit the Pause ButtonAct
“I got this!”

Re-direct your brain when negative thoughts enter

Practice dailyTeach your children
Practice deep breathing

Pray, meditate, recite a phrase of choice

Listen to uplifting music
Participate in a hobby

Exercise (yoga, walk)

Spend time with family and friends

Here are two emotional regulation programs, often used by occupational therapists.

Refer to for more information on stress management.

Toddler Heart Awareness Activities

Window Safe Body Tracing Art

Trace an outline of your toddler’s body on a sliding glass door using window safe crayons. Talk about and label each body part, including a heart. Encourage your toddler to use their words and also draw or color different parts.

Toddler Simple Heart Coloring Pages

Simple Heart Songs

Resources for Parents of Children with Heart Conditions

Congenital Heart Defects—diagnosis-of-congenital-heart-defects

Heart Failure in Children

Heart Arrhythmia in Children

Love, Your Nurture Notetakers

Kim Bandi, OTR/L

Jaimie Henry, M.S. CCC-SLP/L

Dr. Sonja Burmeister OTD, MSPA-C, OTR/L, EICP-OT, Assistant Professor @Moravian College

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